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Self

Article Date: 19 Feb 2011 – 0:00 PST


That feeling of being in, and owning, your own body is a fundamental human experience. But where does it originate and how does it come to be? Now, Professor Olaf Blanke, a neurologist with the Brain Mind Institute at EPFL and the Department of Neurology at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, announces an important step in decoding the phenomenon. By combining techniques from cognitive science with those of Virtual Reality (VR) and brain imaging, he and his team are narrowing in on the first experimental, data-driven approach to understanding self-consciousness.


In recent unpublished work, Blanke and his fellow researchers performed a series of studies in which they immersed subjects, via VR settings, into the body of an avatar, or virtual human. Each subject was fitted with an electrode-studded skullcap to monitor brain activity and exposed to different digital, 3D environments through a head-mounted stereoscopic visor or projections on a large screen.


Blanke and his colleagues then perturbed the most fundamental aspects of consciousness in their subjects, such as “Where am I localized in space” and “What is my body?” by physically touching their real-life volunteers either in or out of sync with the avatar. They even swapped perspectives from first to third person and put their male subjects inside female avatars, all the while measuring the change in brain activity. Use of electrical brain signals meant subjects could stand, move their heads, and (in the most recent experiments) walk with the VR on. Other techniques such as fMRI would have required them to remain still.


Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216860.php



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